Connecticut is a state that likes to hear from our governors when the chips are down.
I’m old enough to remember the Blizzard of ’78 and the iconic “ELLA HELP” message dug into three feet of snow on a Montville lake so that Gov. Ella Grasso could see it when she flew over in a Connecticut National Guard helicopter. Later, Gov. Bill O’Neill took charge when the Mianus River Bridge collapsed in the late 1980s on Interstate 95. Gov. John Rowland bound together the state’s wounds after a tragic shooting at the Connecticut Lottery headquarters and did so again on September 11, 2001.
On a lighter note, there were so many storms in his first year in office that Gov. Dannel Malloy practically moved his office to the state Emergency Response Center. He earned praise for it, and no one can forget how he spoke for an entire state in the shattering aftermath of the shooting in Sandy Hook.
We’re used to getting it straight from our governors.
And so it was that Gov. Ned Lamont strode into the Emergency Response Center on Wednesday, February 26th—with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and a bevy of his administration’s health and safety leaders, along with hospitals, health providers and a small bipartisan group of state legislators—to inform his state about efforts under way to prepare for the coronavirus.
“Connecticut is ready, and we’ve been ready for a while,” Lamont said at the lectern bearing the governor’s seal. He meant it, and he went on to explain in detail the mobilization of state government to prepare and respond.
The Three “Cs”
In so doing, the Governor hit all of the three “Cs” of effective crisis communication:
- Care: You must show the public that resolving an issue is a top priority.
- Control: You need to create the messages that define and control your narrative.
- Communicate: You must consistently communicate that narrative to all key audiences.
Reputations are won and lost in times of crisis. When a crisis hits the public eye, how quickly, sincerely and effectively you communicate your messages will mean the difference between success and failure. Effective crisis communication helps organizations—in this case, state government in the person of its governor—boost confidence and maintain trust.
That’s exactly what this governor did.
The coronavirus is the latest in a series of teachable moments for our elected leaders, just as it is frightening to the public and challenging for the countless scientists, medical professionals and public servants who are working around the clock to keep us healthy and safe. Arming the people with the information we need will give far more lasting comfort than simply telling us it will go away like the flu.
By aiming for the “Cs” of communicating in a crisis, give Gov. Lamont an “A.”
Resources: You can find a trove of information on the coronavirus, with resources from the state and federal government here.